(W) VJ Boyd (W) Justin Boyd (A) Clay McCormack
Cops and robbers and demons — oh my!
The Vegas of Night Moves is a nightmare reflection of the real world, an additional layer to the exaggerated seediness typical of the crime genre where the occult is just another commodity amid sex, drugs, and other vices.
“Noir meets horror,” reads Night Moves’ backface but it is the “noir” that is clearly dominant — and the series is better for it.
That said, the horror sets off the plot. Grifter Chris Dundee and detective Alexis Rohm meet after a bar shoot-out involving armed priests and addicts addled not by heroin but daemonic trances. It sets the two on a collision course with an underworld of spells and ancient artifacts. Together they’ll have to find a way to take down a crime syndicate presided over by a literal demon before he can create hell on earth.
There it is. But within that rather succinct and simplistic summary there are enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. And what becomes clearer as the plot progresses, both thematically and narratively, is that the supernatural plays second-string to all-too-human impulses.
Besides plot developments where human ingenuity (and cunningness) trumps daemonic mysticism, writers VJ and Justin Boyd buck the all-too-common mistake of getting bogged down in lore. Besides a single splash page, we never get bludgeoned by expository dialogue delving into the nitty gritty of how the magic works. One-off references to a wider mythology, such as the one-panel appearance of the “Glove of the Nephilim,” are never explained beyond a single line — they simply exist within this ecosystem of gangsters and cultists.
But in the end it is the humans that drive the central conflict, the big bad demon eventually just another pawn in a battle for power and control. Night Moves plays a classic theme: hell is, always has been, and always will be other people.
The artwork by Clay McCormack does a great job of bringing characters to life through their expressive fluidity while also seamlessly transitioning into some sublimely-illustrated body-horror.
If there’s one major flaw to the series it might be characterization. We’re dealing with genre conventions and archetypes here but our protagonists still feel thin — especially unacceptable given this is also supposed to be the story of a grifter with a heart of gold and a hardass do-good cop falling in love. It may be that there just wasn’t time for those slow, quiet character-building scenes that have become a staple of the medium. Night Moves moves quickly — this isn’t decompression storytelling.
With the exception of the last panels, perhaps, which connect the work thematically to its noir roots. Without spoiling anything, those final images give the reader a proper black comedy send-off tinged with void-dark nihilism.
Night Moves is a solid pulp romp and a great exemplar of how to play genre tropes off one another while still managing a unique but never overladen lore.
If there’s a sequel as the ending text hints at, I’m in.
The Night Moves TPB releases September 11th.